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DaSilva v. Border Transfer of MA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 5, 2017

MARCOS DaSILVA and MATTEUS FERREIRA, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
BORDER TRANSFER OF MA, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Patti B. Saris Chief United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs DaSilva and Ferreira used to work as delivery drivers for Defendant Border Transfer. They claim that Border Transfer improperly treated them as independent contractors when they were in fact employees, and that as a result Border Transfer unlawfully deducted certain business expenses from their pay. Border Transfer moves to dismiss on the basis that the plaintiffs' claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (“FAAAA”), 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1).

         Border Transfer fails to show that the plaintiffs' claims are preempted. However, the unjust enrichment claim is barred because there is an available remedy at law. Border Transfer's motion to dismiss (Docket No. 8) is DENIED as to Count I of the complaint and ALLOWED as to Count II of the complaint.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Allegations

         Border Transfer provides delivery services for large retail stores such as Sears. The plaintiffs worked as delivery drivers for Border Transfer delivering Sears merchandise. Their relationship with Border Transfer was governed by Contract Carrier Agreements.[1]

         The agreements stated that the plaintiffs were independent contractors. However, the plaintiffs allege that they should have been classified as employees because Border Transfer exercised substantial control over their drivers and the drivers did not have the ability to maintain an independently established business. The drivers were required to report to a Border Transfer/Sears facility five mornings a week, where they were instructed on how to assemble equipment and how to interact with customers. They were directed to load goods on their trucks in a specific order and to deliver them at specific times, according to daily manifests provided by Border Transfer. The drivers were required to log each delivery on a cell phone application. They also had to be in contact with Border Transfer and Sears dispatchers throughout the day regarding the status of deliveries, cancellations, and rescheduling. Each day, the drivers had to return haul-aways (equipment removed from customers' homes or businesses) to the warehouse.

         The drivers were not permitted to use helpers unless those helpers passed Border Transfer's background checks. Border Transfer could terminate those helpers at any time.

         The drivers were required to own or lease a truck that met Border Transfer's specifications. They were also required to carry insurance at levels dictated by Border Transfer.

         Border Transfer monitored customer ratings for each driver and would suspend drivers whose ratings dropped below a certain level. Border Transfer could also terminate the contract with the drivers without cause.

         Certain expenses were deducted directly from drivers' compensation, including when Border Transfer determined that a delivery had been made in an unsatisfactory manner -- for instance, when goods or consumer property were damaged. The cost of uniforms was also deducted, as was the cost of paying for a replacement driver when a driver could not complete a delivery. Certain expenses, such as worker's compensation coverage, cargo insurance, fuel costs, vehicle maintenance costs, and payments to helpers, were borne by the drivers.

         II. Procedural History

         After their agreements with Border Transfer expired, the plaintiffs filed this putative class action complaint. They asserted two counts: (1) violation of the Massachusetts Wage Law, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 148, and (2) unjust enrichment. Both causes of action claimed that Border Transfer improperly treated the plaintiffs as independent contractors rather than as employees, and as a result unlawfully deducted certain expenses from their pay.

         On August 8, 2016, Border Transfer moved to dismiss on the basis that the ...


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